Dr Robin Abraham

12 July 2013

Philosophers are a crucial ingredient in any society's life. They are the conscience keepers and guide. They provide perspectives that the average person on the street needs. Philosophers, in spite of being crucial to the health of society, may not be revered all the time, as they also speak unpleasant truths that all of us want to run away from. In a nutshell, it can be said that "you can love them or hate them, but you cannot ignore them". 

 Throughout  history philosophers have come on the world stage and influenced human thought and culture and inspired art and poetry. Buddha, in ancient India become so revered that his influence seems all pervasive in many cultures. Hinduism before and after Buddha don't look the same. 

 In this section we will discuss about philosophers and their impact on society, history, art and culture. We will interview experts, social workers about the influence of philosophers.

I believe that there is a need to understand the eastern and western philosophical streams together  and a common theme needs to be constructed. The western philosophers epitomised by the likes of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, the French revolution philosophers, Karl Marx etc gave emphasis on governance, and social justice. It is for this reason that the western world continues to lead the world in Political thinking. The french Revolution philosopher gave the world the idea of separation of government power into three branches, the Executive, The Judiciary and the Legislature. The separation of powers is seen as normal today, but it is the product of philosophical thought that happened centuries ago. In contrast Indian Philosophers gave emphasis on the individual. Socrates thought of a just society and Indian philosophers imagined a just individual. All emphasis in Indian thought was on achieving the highest standards of individual purity. India gave rise to many great Philosophers like Buddha, Mahavira, Guru Nanak, Kabir, Sree Narayana Guru etc etc, all of whom emphasised on individual salvation. 

(Biography of Plato)

 I believe there is a need to combine the two great Philosophical streams of the world, Eastern and Western, with their emphasis on the Individual and Social respectively, reinforced to create a single philosophical thought.  

YouTube video of the French Revolution (History Channel)

Social change

Humanity is never static. It has been changing over the ages. Some changes were positive and some negative. Philosophers have always played a big role in social change. In my view, social change needs three things: dialogue, innovation and fellowship

Dialogue: All change starts when someone dares to ask a question. Why was Socrates killed? He asked uncomfortable questions. The change that came to india in the form of weakening of the caste system started when social philosophers started asking questions and starting a dialogue. Sree Narayana Guru in kerala during the late 19th century enthused the public by starting a dialogue on Caste system. He realised that temple plays a central role in maintaining the caste oppression. He had a simple plan, he built his own temples and opened it to all. This started a conversation and the irrationality of caste oppression became clear to all. He stressed the importance of education and the power of being organised. All these changes in Kerala happened in a non-violent way. 

Dialogue between Gandhiji and Ambedkar evokes much debate even today. Ambedkar always asked many tough and uncomfortable questions about Hindu society which are relevant even today. 

Innovation: Change came to humanity when fire, wheel, and a whole series of innovations since then changed the way we lived and had profound influence on our culture. We need the help of innovations now also as we face the grave challenges of environmental degradation, peak oil etc etc. Volunteers can go a long way to document the innovations that we all need.For example, the people who are pioneering change through innovations like Zero Budget farming in India have been inspired by a philosophy of simple living in harmony with nature. Various experiments with social change has involved many innovations that need to be documented. This website will make a humble effort in the same direction.

Fellowship: Social change is inconceivable without fellowship. Only when a group of people, who share a spiritual bond with each other, come together is change possible. Gandhi produced great change by inspiring scores of people to come out and volunteer for the country. Even today you will find people in India who volunteer for the country inspired by Gandhi's example. Philosophers have played a great role in forming communes which shared family like bonds with people who were not related to each other. Volunteers should take inspiration from this to form a fellowship for social change. 

Sree Narayana Guru and Social change in Kerala